Wilton Manors Police Chief Gary Blocker announced his department is recommitting efforts to achieve a conviction in the horrific murder of a gay couple. 

Earlier this year, citing a procedural error, the Florida Supreme Court granted Peter Avsenew a new trial. Avsenew is charged with the 2010 killing of Wilton Manors couple Stephen Adams and Kevin Powell. The case has been sent back to the 17th Judicial Circuit because a key witness — Avsenew’s mother — testified virtually in a way that prevented her from seeing the defendant.

“We believe the killer murdered Stephen and Kevin because they were gay,” Blocker said. “We will stand up for Stephen, Kevin, their families, our community and the greater LGBTQ+ community and our allies working toward a second conviction. Anything less would be unacceptable.”

Blocker said a trial date has not been set but asked for thoughts and prayers for the families that will have to relive the tragic killings in court again. Avsenew was convicted of first-degree murder in 2017 and given the death penalty. He boasted that he “was not sorry” and in a hand written letter to a judge wrote, “homosexuals are a disease to mankind and must be put down.”

“Back then this crime was big for our community,” Blocker said. “It was big and impactful and it should be as we move forward yet again.”

Adams and Powell had been together for 29 years before they were shot and bludgeoned to death days before Christmas in 2010. Avsenew, now 37 and an inmate at Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, allegedly met the couple through a sexually suggestive ad on Craig’s List and moved in with them weeks prior to the killing.

Other notes from the March 8 meeting:

Blocker awarded officer Daniel Leone and code compliance administrative assistant Denise Smith with officer and civilian employee awards for the quarter. Officer Daniel Plunske received the 2021 Officer of the Year Award and Alberto Carrillo, crime intelligence analyst, was posthumously awarded the Civilian Employee of the Year Award. “Al achieved great success because of one simple yet powerful word: love,” Blocker said.

Community Affairs Advisory Board chairman Michael Sansevero announced a new public art installation. The sculpture, titled “Ice Pops,” is located at Rachel Richardson Park. “It’s a beautiful addition to the central neighborhood,” Sansevero said. Elsewhere, Sansevero is accepting donations to repair the “Slices of Heaven” sculpture at the SunServe building. The citrus-themed piece collapsed due to water leakage.

RR park popsicles 1

"Ice Pops." Courtesy of Robert Hadley.

On a 3-2 vote, commissioners approved a lease agreement with Echo Air Conditioning for 1,200 square feet of floor space at 2200 NE 12th Avenue. Commissioners Mike Bracchi and Gary Resnick objected to the deal on the grounds rent was well below market rate. The lease will provide $1,140 monthly revenue to the city’s water utility fund.

Commissioners gave the go-ahead to join national litigation in opioid-related settlements.

“This resolution wisely states that this also applies to any future opioid settlements,” resident Paul Kuta said. “This is important because just last week Purdue Pharmaceuticals finally agreed to a revised, multi-billion-dollar settlement over its role in the opioid crisis with almost all states and thousands of local governments.”

Commissioner Chris Caputo asked for more focus on traffic safety. Commissioner Gary Resnick echoed Caputo’s request and proposed getting Florida Senator Gary Farmer and other state representatives involved. Resnick said either a change in design or lower speed limits are desperately needed on Powerline Road. “It’s absolutely not safe,” he said.

The next regular commission meeting is scheduled for March 22.

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New Police Chief Named in Wilton Manors